City workers can't help clean up private property

13News Now Audrey Esther has the story

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) – Over and over again, people impacted by Hurricane Matthew say they need help cleaning up, and they need it now.

City officials continue to say they need more volunteers because city workers can’t do it all. 

“It's just phenomenal the loss of property that people took,” Virginia Beach resident Ken Chord told 13News Now.   

Chord's flood-damaged items as well as those of many of his neighbors line their streets waiting, for sanitation crews to take the belongings away. 

“We've got all of our trucks out there,” said Virginia Beach’s Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator, Erin Sutton. “Every truck in the city, we've got out there,”

Sutton added that the trucks also are making multiple stops in the hardest-hit neighborhoods, including communities in the Rosemont area.   

“It does flood, but during Matthew it really flooded,” stated Rosemont resident, Nancy Johnson. "“It was in all the way in my house."

Although city crews are helping with clean up, when it comes to entering homes private property, you won't find them doing that. Sutton explained there is good reason.

“We can't have city workers go to Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s home and rip out carpet and cut out drywall and move their furniture on the city's time,” Sutton said.

She added there also is financial consideration.

“It's fiduciary responsibility,” Sutton told 13News Now. “It's not that we're not helping. We're clearing debris out of people's yards. We're helping to clear the roads. We're pumping water out of Sherwood Lakes to get it out of your front yard, but to utilize city staff to -- we've been utilizing the phrase 'muck and gut' individual properties throughout the city, that's not an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.” 

Sutton pointed out that removing a tree that's endangering someone's life is different.  

“We're not going to drive by a tree that's precariously dangling over a residence and not offer some semblance of assistance,” Sutton said. “We're going to remove the debris that's pulled out of your house because that's what your tax dollars pay for.”

City officials urge residents to enlist volunteers, but for some people that can be a difficult option to pursue.  

“If I have the money to replace the stuff, but I can't have them come and taking stuff if I can’t replace it,” Johnson stated.

On Tuesday, FEMA workers will finish storm damage assessments, which will help determine if Virginia receives federal disaster assistance.


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